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The world of work is ever-evolving – this isn’t a new thing, but the pandemic certainly amplified, decentralised and expedited forms of work such as remote/working from home. Many organisations went remote because they had to. It was quite refreshing seeing our colleagues away from the confines of the workplace, and some standards around professionalism certainly shifted, as well they should. It was a heightened time, after all. But is it time to pick up our britches, as they say in the classics? Is it time for a reminder about professionalism? Do the ‘rules’ of professionalism apply if the workplace is the spare bedroom?

the three PsBefore we go any further in exploring whether expectations of professionalism should vary according to location let me say this:

Hybrid working and remote working is here to stay. It’s a mode of operandi that offers a raft of benefits and can contribute to building a powerful Employee Value Proposition (employee experience) and incredible workplace culture. That’s a given. However, the people I work with – CEOs, leaders, business owners and human resources professionals – are increasingly finding that hybrid and remote working raises challenges around the concept of professionalism.

Simply put, professionalism is non-negotiable, regardless of the work location. But what even is professionalism? Well, that’s a slippery one to define in many ways, but is directly related to expectations and workplace and/or team norms. Some industries and sectors are simply more conservative than others and have expectations around professionalism that might be viewed as unnecessarily rigid by people in other sectors.

While there are variations, I believe that professionalism in a remote work context encompasses three factors:

Presence, poise and pace.

I like these three Ps because they are applicable not only to executive presence but also to virtual settings, which, according to my clients, is where this issue of professionalism seems to be rearing its ugly head.

To me, presence is quite literal – it’s being present. If you’re joining a team meeting virtually, have your camera on. You wouldn’t sit in the boardroom with your back turned so why would this be appropriate in the zoom meeting room? On that note, would you be scrolling social media or playing candy crush while your CEO is speaking? I’m assuming not. One further thing – take off the hoody and embrace waist up style as dictated by personal stylist Nicole Vine.

Poise is primarily about your body language. Yes, again, if you’re in a meeting turn on your camera, but also be aware of how you’re showing up. Are you flustered? Are you putting yourself on mute while you take a phone call? For the love of all that we hold dear, are you still on mute while you’re speaking?

Pace is about how you’re presenting yourself verbally. Are you projecting your voice – actually, let’s take that back a step and ask are you making a valuable contribution to discussions? Is your language assertive and positive, or are you belittling and undermining yourself with apologetic language such as ‘just’, or ‘I was hoping’? It’s easy in the zoom room for quieter voices to stay on mute. If you’re someone who speaks quickly, in the zoom room this appears magnified, so you might need to intentionally slow down the cadence of how you speak, and allow for interruptions. This leads me to my next point – listening is sometimes more difficult in the online setting than it seems. If someone is in the middle of a narrative are you filling the chat box with unrelated chatter, effectively interrupting them?

Look, at the crux of things, professionalism is about how you show up, how you adhere to expectations and cultural norms. Keep those three Ps in mind – presence, poise and pace – and you’ll meet those expectations at home or in the workplace. And if you’d like some support exploring or articulating cultural norms, please reach out.

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